Yes, Dogs Can See Color
When you buy your dog an adorable Lilly Pulitzer leash and collar, you know they look dapper, but does your dog have any idea that it’s wearing a fashionable pink-and-green combination?
There’s a common myth that dogs can only see in black and white, but according to the American Kennel Club, that idea came from research conducted way back in 1937, and has now been debunked.
There are some physical differences between human eyes and dog eyes. The eye has two features that allow our brains to process color and light—rods and cones. Rods help us see in dim light while cones help our brains distinguish between different colors.
Humans and dogs have different numbers of rods and cones. Dogs can see better at night because their eyes generally have more rods, which help them see more clearly in dim light.
Alexandra Horowitz, author of the book Being a Dog, told Business Insider that while no one knows for sure, the colors a dog sees are “probably similar to what we see at dusk.” As for whether that’s an Alabama dusk or a Tennessee dusk, only the dogs know for sure.
When it comes to seeing color, though, that’s up to the cones. Human cones can detect three colors: red, green, and blue, and all the various hues in between. The cones in dogs’ eyes can only detect two colors, which are most likely blue and yellow. A researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara ran a series of tests on pups (don’t worry, they weren’t harmed, but were just given treats when they picked the right colors), and determined that dogs see the colors of the world as basically yellow, blue, and gray.
As the AKC points out, if you really want to know how your dog sees the world, pay a visit to Dog Vision, a website that offers side-by-side comparisons of how people and dogs see color.
That means that your dog sees the world the same way as people with red-green color blindness, Gregory Acland, a professor of medical genetics at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine told Animal Planet. “Such people will tell you that they do in fact see colors but they can have difficulties distinguishing some shades that other people tell apart easily,” he told the website, explaining that pastels and “muddy shades in the red-orange-green range” are the most difficult for them to discern.
Sadly, that means the pink flowers on that Lilly Pulitzer collar may go unappreciated by Fluffy. Next time, pick out a collar with blues and yellows so your pup will know how good they look.